Stop Sinking Money Into the Marketing Loop

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Purple Cow" by Seth Godin. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the mass marketing loop? How could getting stuck in the marketing loop be the downfall of your company?

Mass marketing requires mass spending. Many companies will spend the money they earn from mass marketing on advertising, creating a marketing loop.

Keep reading to learn how to escape the marketing loop.

The Mass Product and Mass Marketing Loop

Mass marketing is used to push mass products; that is, products designed to appeal to everyone. However, mass products are boring. Companies trying to make products with broad appeal will take spicy foods and make them blander, sacrifice high quality in favor of low cost, and so forth. Mass products designed to appeal to everyone will not appeal to anyone.

Furthermore, mass marketing requires mass spending, hence why it’s a mass marketing loop. Companies can spend tens of millions—if not hundreds of millions—of dollars on a nationwide product rollout. Frontloading that kind of expense demands fast and impressive results, which boring products are unlikely to get. It also has two side effects:

  1. You can’t launch as many new products because of the huge cost associated with each one.
  2. You have no time to reach the majority of the population. You’ll have given up or, worse, gone bankrupt by the time the majority of the population becomes interested in your product.

Rather than spending all that money on advertising and creating a marketing loop, you’re better off investing it into making something truly remarkable and letting the product speak for itself. 

Tide Detergent Case Study

Consider Tide laundry detergent, made by Procter & Gamble. This is a product that’s continually improved and marketed based on old wisdom. P&G invests millions of dollars every year into making their product better—but not remarkable. Even with all the money they’re sinking into R&D, at this point, it’s not likely that they’ll come up with something so innovative and exciting that it attracts a lot of new buyers. This strategy is most likely left over from a time when people had the time and energy to seek out the best laundry detergent on the market. Now, however, most people simply don’t care. Their clothes get clean, and that’s good enough.

It’s not hard to see how Tide got locked into this marketing loop. In its early days, Tide was hugely successful, simply due to being a good product with good distribution and advertising. However, with the TV-industrial complex dying, ads are much less effective than they used to be. Right now, Tide’s distribution is the only thing keeping it afloat—Wal-Mart accounts for a full third of its sales, so if something happens to Wal-Mart or it stops carrying Tide detergent, the product is doomed no matter how much money goes into R&D. 

This clearly is not a winning strategy. According to Purple Cow logic, Procter & Gamble should cut their losses, stop sinking so much money into a dying product, and instead use that money for exciting new innovations in other markets. 

Stop Sinking Money Into the Marketing Loop

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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